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There are lots of I’s in a team, but there shouldn’t be lots of egos

Updated: Aug 29, 2019

We are resourceful people but some tasks require greater resources than we alone possess. That’s one of the re reasons why we create teams.

The fundamental principle of teamwork is ‘reliance’. We rely on other people to plug the gaps in our capabilities and knowledge, and to take on responsibilities that are beyond us. That means we must stand back and let them get on with it. Why is that so hard?

· It’s hard when we don’t accept our own failings in certain areas, egotistically believing that we are better at something than anyone else, when we aren’t

· It’s hard when we are afraid of other people ‘showing us up’ by displaying their prowess in areas that we believe should be our domain

· It’s hard when we are afraid to let go

· It’s hard when we don’t see the value of what other people can bring

 Team role analysis points to various skills and preferences that teams should access and foster in order to successfully complete its work. Belbin and MBTI, among many others, provide a template against which teams can check themselves and address issues related to incomplete representation. But highlighting what might be needed is a far cry from having great team working. We might accept the model and the theory, but the practice is harder.

The problem with all team roles is that they are not always fully appreciated by people who don’t have a preference for them. We might recognise we need them, but we don’t always truly embrace them. It’s hard because it requires us to think way beyond our own world, which we define by what we like, how we think things should happen, what we value, where our skills lie, and how we think. The reason why we need other people in the team who are different to us is precisely because they might not like what we like, value what we value, be good at what we’re good at or think the way we think. But that also makes them much harder to understand.

The trick for any team is creating a team ethos that celebrates and accommodates the mix of roles within the team, and the contribution they make to team performance. That won’t happen unless we leave our egos at the dressing room door, allow ourselves to truly rely on others, and pack a whole lot of trust in our kit-bag.

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